At Monday night’s board meeting, the Mancos Re-6 School Board unanimously approved changing insurance providers for the district.
The board also heard comments about the nonrenewal of a special education teacher’s contract and a simmering dispute over board treasurer Tim Hunter’s stance at the March for Our Lives protest in Cortez last month.
The board voted to change the insurance plan after a presentation from Superintendent Brian Hanson and Business Manager Chrissie Miller. With the district’s current provider, rates were expected to increase by 10 to 14 percent in the next year.
“This package is similar to what we are doing now, which is partially self-funded,” Hanson said. “It is a partial-funded, which is the same thing we are doing now. It is just unbundled, which saves us money.”
The board also heard a construction update from owner’s representative Monty Guiles. He reported that a grant had been obtained for a new freezer for the new facility and mentioned other savings.
“We went into the meeting about $2.75 million above our construction budget, and we came out of it about $1 million above our construction budget, so that is OK, considering we are just now getting the first phase of drawings,” Guiles said. “As the design gets tightened, the opportunity to identify savings are made available.”
Guiles also reported that two students were being interviewed for summer construction jobs.
Hanson and the board agreed to hold an open house on May 30 at 7 p.m. at the Mancos School District Re-6 office at 395 Grand Ave.
The open house will display drawings of new construction work and give opportunities for the public to question school board and administration officials.
After some discussion, the board unanimously voted to act on a resolution to approve Cap Ex expenditures to Noah Enterprises for door security.
School board President Blake Mitchell asked Hanson about the new system of buzz-in doors, and whether doors could be propped open. Hanson deferred to school Principals Cathy Epps and Adam Priestly, and Dean of Students Heath Showalter.
Elementary Principal Epps reported that she had no problem with students or staff propping doors open. Secondary Principal Priestly and Showalter said they have been having some issues with one door, but that they are sure to check it consistently because of the issue.
“My personal opinion: If you catch staff and students doing that, you gotta come down hard on them,” Mitchell said. “We have taken some pretty strong action toward locking our doors.”
During the public participation portion of the board meeting, two issues were addressed: the contract nonrenewal for extended school services middle school teacher Jennifer Paschal, and school board treasurer Hunter.
People came to speak in defense of Paschal, criticizing the nonrenewal of her contract.
“Jennifer, you will prevail. I have no concerns for you, but I am concerned for (the students),” Carolyn Smith said. “I have seen what a wonderful special ed teacher can do, so I urge you (the board) to be careful.”
Paschal also spoke during public participation, claiming that Priestly and administrators did not follow proper steps in dismissing her contract.
“While I was upset with the manner that I was nonrenewed, what is even a greater concern is the continued lack of professionalism toward some staff and students,” Paschal said. “I want the board to consider this: Who will be watching out for all of our kids when I feel that our leader of our schools is not.”
Other citizens addressed “behavior complaints” and a Facebook dispute concerning Hunter.
Hunter drew criticism on Facebook after he attended the March for Our Lives protest in Cortez on March 24. As students spoke in favor of gun control, Hunter wore a T-shirt reading “Black Guns Matter,” and he handed out pages of statistics claiming that guns account for relatively few deaths in the U.S.
He was criticized by Facebook commenters as having behaved in an unprofessional manner for a public official.
That criticism as well as new complaints were raised at Monday’s board meeting.
David Franks said he and his daughter were at a coffee house when he and Hunter began a conversation that quickly soured.
“Our conversation was just a difference of opinions, and I respect that, but when you included my daughter and told her that she was not going to have any rights based on my views, I got really angry,” Franks said. “It is kind of bugging me that the community is just getting divided.”
“On this Facebook thing,” Franks said, “people are being really mean, and it is carrying over into our children, and we need to be examples.”
Todd Kearns, who criticized Hunter and his stance at the March for Our Lives, said he wrote a letter of complaint two weeks ago “about actions of a board member.”
“We heard a little bit about those actions from David Franks,” Kearns said. He asked the board for clarification on procedure and whether he would receive a written reply.
Travis Imel was in attendance in support of Hunter.
“I was able to see what went on, and I just believe that it was really uncalled for,” he said. “I think it was an unneeded rant that came from secondhand information and fueled by people from outside the school district, and in my opinion, I think the discussion should be over.”
The board did not respond to concerns, but thanked participants for their time.
The Mancos School Board adjourned at 8:34 p.m.
The board moved its next work session to May 30 at 5:30 because of Senior Night on May 7. The board’s next regular meeting is May 21.